A third of American adults take prescription drugs that can cause depression

14 June, 2018, 09:37 | Author: Kara Nash
  • Alto  Getty Images Stock image of woman holding birth control pills

A new study suggests that over one-third of American adults take at least one drug with depression as a side effect.

"The take away message of this study is that polypharmacy can lead to depressive symptoms and that patients and health care providers need to be aware of the risk of depression that comes with all kinds of common prescription drugs - many of which are also available over the counter", said lead author Professor Dima Qato, from the University of IL at Chicago, in a statement. About 15% of adults who took three or more of such medications experienced depression compared to 7% for those only taking one. Approximate use of antacids with potential depression adverse effects, like proton pump inhibitors and H2 antagonists, increased from 5 percent to 10 percent in the same period.

"The take away message of this study is that polypharmacy can lead to depressive symptoms and that patients and health care providers need to be aware of the risk of depression that comes with all kinds of common prescription drugs - many of which are also available over the counter", said lead author Dima Qato, assistant professor of pharmacy systems, outcomes and policy in the UIC College of Pharmacy.

"Product labeling for over-the-counter medications does not include comprehensive information on adverse effects including depression", said the report.

The study is cross-sectional, meaning it doesn't conclude that the medications used cause depression, but only that there is an association between the two.

The list of potential side effects that accompanies most prescription drug may seem farcically long, and it can be easy to assume that the ill effects won't impact you.


The researchers observed similar results for drugs that listed suicide as a potential side effect.

"In this cross-sectional US population-based survey study conducted between 2005 and 2014, the estimated overall prevalence of USA adults using medications with depression as a potential adverse effect was 37.2 percent", the study's summary page says. The researchers have not established any causal relationship between the drugs they identified in the study and depression - they merely pointed out a correlation.

As depression is one of the leading causes of disability, it is important that we do what we can to help and support people who suffer from it, especially as the stigma associated with mental health often stops them from receiving the help they need.

Is your daily prescription raising your depression risk?

The study's findings are based on the patterned medication histories of 26,000 people from 2005 to 2014.

According to researchers, anti-depressants are the only drug that carries an explicit warning - called a black box warning - of suicide risk.

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